Never underestimate the power of focus.”
Tim Hyer is the founder of Getable in San Francisco, an on-demand, sharing economy construction equipment rental company that connects professional equipment rental companies with people in need of products, from hand tools to bulldozers. Getable has hundreds of suppliers and customers throughout the state of California.
Hyer started the one-stop shop company with the belief that renting on-demand equipment is more cost-effective than owning it, getting the idea thanks to his passion for bike racing. The cost to ship his bike to competitions around the country averaged $600 per race, making him realize there had to be a better way: renting bicycles! That concept became Rentcycle, which evolved into Getable, a startup business renting construction equipment. Getable offers quality equipment rentals from verified suppliers at transparent, fair prices with no hidden fees or damage waivers.
Prior to Getable, Hyer was the Business Development Manager at Added Value Cheskin, a brand development and marketing consultancy which worked with clients from Fortune 500s to startups. Before that he was a Brand Manager at Red Hat, a leading provider of open source solutions.
Hyer, a graduate of Duke University, enjoys running, rowing and mountain biking. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, three children, and dog, Stella.
Where did the idea for Getable come from?
Getable was inspired by the idea that access is better than ownership. Why invest in something that needs to be purchased, stored, maintained when you can simply pay for access? The original inspiration was a bicycle I needed for a triathlon race, but the business has found a fit with construction equipment which shares the same inspiration behind the original idea. Access trumps ownership.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Working at a tech startup of twelve people means you wear lots of hats. Everyone does. Every day is different, whether working with engineers on the product, giving feedback to designers on an upcoming feature, or streamlining call scripts for customer support. There’s a lot flying around, which is why I’m religious about one thing — to-do lists. Although I’m a pretty savvy guy, I still carry around a paper notebook and a pen. Inside is a list of to-do’s — one page per day. Since starting this company, I’ve filled dozens of notebooks with to-do lists. Anything that doesn’t get completed rolls right into the next day’s list. It’s the only way to keep track of the highest priorities and actually maintain productivity at a multi-hat-wearing startup.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Our team is very collaborative. We bring ideas to life as a group, often starting with some sort of discussion — whether in-person during lunch or online via Slack or Yammer. From there, someone takes the lead on summarizing the ideas and prioritizing next steps. One or more people will create a prototype that’s presented to the wider group for feedback. We iterate, implement, test and analyze. Then, we rinse and repeat until a meaningful conclusion is reached.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The whole on-demand movement is very exciting. Over the past two decades, humans have become more and more accustomed to having whatever they want at their fingertips. It started with information through the Internet and email but has exploded with mobile devices and the infinite number of things you can instantly access through apps. More recently, a number of physical products and service experiences can also be delivered on-demand — making virtually anything accessible at any time. Will be fun to see what this trend touches next.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Time is a startup’s most precious resource and I’ve learned to become disciplined with how I spend mine. As the company grows, so do the number of meetings that need to happen. I’m not saying meetings are bad — they’re actually essential to staying on the same page with key team members in a rapidly changing startup environment. But too many ill placed meetings can sapp a day’s productivity. I’ve gotten into the habit of strategically planning my meetings on certain days of the week or certain parts of the day. This allows long periods of uninterrupted time which allows me to get deep into certain efforts. When meetings are sporadic throughout the day, you’re never able to get truly deep into work which can kill productivity.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I once worked for a door company. Even worse, the company didn’t make the actual doors — just the parts for the door, like the weatherproof seals and thresholds. It was my very first job out of college and I drove 60 miles each way for this entry-level marketing job. Although there were some less than desireable things about this job, I learned the importance of working your way up in the business world. Starting at the bottom gives you the perspective to see what it takes to learn the ropes and earn your way to the next step in the path to the top. I worked hard to leverage this marketing experience with a desireable tech company who gave me an internship I would have never gotten without some marketing experience under my belt. This job led me to Silicon Valley, which ultimately led to me starting my own company. But it all started with entry-level marketing at a door company.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I’d tell myself to set expectations. Overnight successes are few and far between. Most companies that make it take years, many years, to truly achieve impact. I’ve been building my current company for seven years and we still have ways to go. At this point, I’ve accepted the time required and am at peace with it. But it took me awhile to acquire the patience and tenacity required for a startup. Knowing this upfront would have likely been positive for my mental health.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
It’s so easy to burn out when your work becomes your life. It’s all you think about, it’s all you talk about, it’s all you do. You neglect health, sleep, social relationships — it just happens if you don’t watch out for it. I’ve learned to find balance by forcing myself to spend time doing something other than work. What you do isn’t what matters — it just matters that you do something else, as a mental break to find balance. For me, balance comes in the form of a morning workout and family dinner with my wife and kids. Balance looks different for each person, but it’s essential to hanging in the entrepreneurial game over the long haul.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. I was told this from the very beginning and have tried to execute upon it at every step of the way. Once you stop being insecure about other people being better than you and realize that this is actually better for the business, things really start moving in the right direction. The same advice works in inverse — detach yourself from people who are dumber than you. The moment you know someone isn’t working out, you must remove them. Dragging out time with a bad egg only drags down the company.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Like many first time entrepreneurs, I suffered from a lack of focus. As you dig into an idea that no one has ever conceived before, there is little limit to where you can take a concept. I’ve since learned that limits are important, since, without them, you can waste a lot of time biting off more than you can chew. I remember the day I realized that I had lost focus from the original concept — to the point that we had built a one-size-fits-all solution that delivered a mediocre experience to a wide audience instead of an excellent experience to a narrow audience. I was able to overcome this loss of focus by analyzing the many user types we had encountered to find the single type that was the best fit for our offering. We made a quick decision to pivot the business toward laser focus on the end-user and were able to raise a successful round of capital based on a concrete and believable business case. Never underestimate the power of focus.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We spend a lot of time researching online service providers — whether an online survey tool or a new customer support telephony service — and there doesn’t seem to be a great place to compare all of these solutions in an objective way. Building some sort of side-by-side comparison for online services would seem valuable to businesses (and likely consumers as well).
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently had a cross-country business trip that required a red eye from California to Florida. Although I never do this, I opted for the “premium” seating with extra legroom since I’m 6’3” tall. Slept the entire time and rocked the business meeting the next morning. Totally worth it.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Google Apps are amazing since they capture everything you need to run the day-to-day of a business. Gmail is where I spend 90% of my workday — its search functionality is incredible. Google Calendar is essential. Google Docs is great for collaboration among multiple team members. Beyond that, I love LinkedIn for scouting new hires and new business development opportunities.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
If you’re an entrepreneur who has not read The Innovator’s Dilemma, you’re in trouble. Nine out of ten venture capitalists will reference that book at least once per meeting and you will be remiss if you don’t know what they’re referring to.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I’m extremely fortunate to have the mentorship and guidance of two incredible board members who have been with me from the beginning. The Founder of OpenTable, Chuck Templeton, and the Co-Founder of Netflix, Marc Randolph. Both are seasoned operators who have successfully delivered their visions to the masses and continue to be active in the venture world. You can follow their perspectives of life on their blogs.